Wine

Wines are alcoholic beverages that have been fermented from fleshy fruits (e.g., apples, grapes, peaches, and plums), although most often from the cultivated grape Vitis vinifera (family Vitaceae) and related species. While the vast majority of wines are made from grapes, wines may also be made from the vegetative parts of certain plants.

Wines are made by harvesting ripened grapes from farms known as vineyards. The timing of the harvest is critical, since a balance of accumulated sugar, acids, and other grape flavor components reaches an optimal level to ultimately produce a fine wine. If the grapes are harvested too soon or too late, there is the possibility of producing a lower quality wine. Bunches of

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS OF ALCOHOLIC

Beverage Fermented Materials Carbonated? Distilled?

BEVERAGES

Other Features

Beers

Ales

Barley malt, wheat,

Yes

No

Warm fermented

rice

Stout

Highly kilned (dark)

Yes

No

An ale using dark

malt

malts

Lagers

Barley malt

Yes

No

Cold fermented

Weizen beers

Wheat malt

Yes

No

Wheat beers of

Germany

Wines

Red

Grapes fermented

No

No

Served at room

with skins

temperature

White

Grapes fermented

No

No

Served chilled

without skins

Port

Grapes

No

No/Yes

Fortified with alcohol/

cognac

Champagne

Grapes fermented

Yes

No

A sparkling wine

without skins

Sparkling wines

Grapes

Yes

No

May be blended

Spirits

Whiskeys

Scotch

Barley malt, often

No

Yes

Aged in oak casks

(single malt)

peat-smoked

Rye

Rye (at least 51 percent)

No

Yes

Maximum 80 proof

Bourbon

Corn (at least 51 percent)

No

Yes

Sour mashed with

bacteria

Gin

Malt, other grains

No

Yes

Flavored with juniper

cones

Rum

Sugarcane or molasses

No

Yes

Light or dark rums

available

Tequila/Mescal

Agave tequiliana stems

No

Yes

Traditional drinks of

Mexico

Vodka

Malt, grains, potatoes

No

Yes

Few additional flavors

Brandy/Cognac

Wines

No

Yes

Distilled wines

Liqueurs

Wines

No

Yes

Sweetened with added

sugars

Other

Sake

Rice

No

No

Double fermentation

Cider

Apples

Yes/No

No

May be flavored/spiced

Mead

Honey

Yes/No

No

May be flavored/spiced

grapes are removed from the vines, usually by manual labor, and are brought to the winery for production. The grapes are passed through a mechanical destemmer that removes the nonfruit portions of the bunches, and the fruits are then crushed to express the juice from the fleshy berries. The liquid obtained from the crushed grapes is termed "must." The must is placed in either open or closed fermentation vessels (typically closed vessels in modern wineries) and readied for fermentation. If red wines are being made, the skins from the pressed grapes are also added to the fermentation vessel (the grape skins contribute reddish pigments to the finished wine); for white wine production, the skins are not used and only clear must is fermented.

The must that is ready to be fermented is then inoculated with a particular strain of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that has been selected for wine fermentation. There are hundreds of different strains of wine yeast, each imparting a particular flavor during the fermentation. When complete, the fermentation will produce an alcohol content of approximately 12 to 14 percent alcohol by volume. Following fermentation, any suspended particulate material (the lees) is allowed to settle, and the clear wine is siphoned (or

tannins compounds produced by plants that usually serve protective functions; often colored and used for "tanning" and dyeing

24 M

enzyme a protein that controls a reaction in a cell racked) to a new storage vessel, which is usually a large barrel made from white oak wood. The wine is then conditioned in these barrels for a year or more, occasionally being racked to new oak barrels as the wine matures. Under these conditions, chemical reactions take place in the wine that add complexity to the flavor profile. Even contact with tannins in the walls of the barrel provides subtle and desirable flavor characteristics that lower quality wines conditioned in stainless steel vessels lack. Most wines are "still" (not carbonated), but sparkling wines are allowed to undergo another fermentation after they mature, and are bottled while this fermentation is occuring, thereby carbonating the wine. Champagne is one famous version of a sparkling (white) wine originally from the region of France known by that name.

Wines are bottled in glass containers and are usually sealed by inserting a compressed cork into the neck of the bottles. Wine is stored and further matured while laying on the side, so that the cork remains moist to maintain its airtight seal. Some wines should be consumed within a year or two of production; others need many years or decades to achieve their optimum flavor.

The wine industry is an extensive one, with major centers of production in France, California, Italy, Spain, and Germany, with additional developing centers of production in South Africa, Australia, Argentina, and Chile. Although wine is vinted around the world, certain places are favored for wine production due to optimal climates and suitable land for the establishment of vineyards. Wine grapes often need warm days and cool nights, with minimal temperature extremes seasonally. Furthermore, ample sunlight, available soil nutrients, and sufficient water are required for grape production. Due to variation in seasonal climates, growing and harvest conditions, and seasonal timing of production events, significant changes occur from year to year that make wines produced in certain years of higher or lower quality. Thus, the practice of labeling vintages of wine (the year of wine production) and the grape variety from which they were made is established so that enologists (people who study wine) can evaluate differences from year to year, as well as to ensure that enophiles (people who enjoy and collect wine) can purchase wines of known quality. Since many of the variables that go into wine production are not controllable by the wine producers, differences are bound to occur in each production cycle. The variation in wine flavors is therefore unending and the source of fascination for many who appreciate wine.

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